K-drama Daily Dose Of Sunshine takes empathetic, destigmatising look at mental health
Daily Dose Of Sunshine (NC16)
“Any one of us can find ourselves in a weakened mental state.”
That is what psychiatrist Hwang Yeo-hwan (Chang Ryul) says to psychiatric nurse Jung Da-eun (Park Bo-young) in Daily Dose Of Sunshine, now streaming on Netflix.
Mental health is a touchy subject in South Korea, and this K-drama attempts to destigmatise psychiatric care with – as the title suggests – a dose of sunshine, while also encouraging more open dialogue on the topic.
Adapted from a 2017 webtoon of the same name by former psychiatric nurse Lee Ra-ha – who wrote the series based on her real-life experiences – the show follows a team of nurses and doctors at a psychiatric ward as seen through the eyes of nurse Jung.
Jung is an empathetic and experienced internal medicine nurse who truly cares for her patients. However, being overly kind creates an unbalanced workload for her colleagues.
Thus, the big-hearted nurse is transferred to the psychiatric department and has to learn how to deal with individuals who behave in strange ways.
Here are three reasons to binge on the 12-episode procedural drama.
1. Class acts
Despite Jung’s sunny disposition, the character is fighting her own demons, and Park balances the emotions well.
In the later episodes where Jung is consumed by depression, the skilled actress’ portrayal of the nurse spiralling out of control is top-notch.
The drama also has a strong supporting cast. Veteran South Korean actress Lee Jung-eun of Parasite (2019) fame is head nurse Song Hyo-jin, Jung’s dependable mentor.
Then there are Jung’s scene-stealing love interests: her lifelong friend Song Yu-chan (Jang Dong-yoon) and doctor Dong Go-yun (Yeon Woo-jin), who is also a patient of the psychiatric unit due to his compulsive habit of cracking his knuckles and finger joints.
Dong provides some comic relief, while goofy Song dishes out wise and heartfelt advice.
2. Empathy, not sympathy
With the colourful and bright set designs, and characters dressed in orange and pink scrubs, there is a sense of warmth and an element of fun, despite the harsh reality of the prevalence of mental health struggles.
Daily Dose Of Sunshine sheds light on the various aspects of disorders such as schizophrenia, paranoia, depression, delusion and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It also deals with environmental issues – for instance, work stress and overbearing parents – that may cause a person to break down.
However, the patients are never depicted as stereotypical victims, and the drama takes an empathetic instead of sympathetic tone.
Also, the story raises awareness that mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of wealth and education status – and that caregivers, including doctors and nurses, are not immune.
3. Therapy session
Daily doses of this drama, especially after a long day at work, can be quite heavy-going at times. But because the issues are handled delicately, the characters and their experiences become relatable.
Lines such as “all of us are standing on the edge between normal and abnormal” may sound cliched, but they strike a chord and can be therapeutic.
Director Lee Jae-kyoo even said at the show’s press conference in Seoul on Nov 1 that shooting the series was cathartic for him.
After filming the popular apocalyptic zombie drama All Of Us Are Dead (2022), taking on Daily Dose Of Sunshine and making it vibrant was something he “desperately needed”.
Being on the set every day was like a process of self-healing, Lee told The Korea Herald, adding that filming each episode was like a therapy session.
He said: “When you break your bone, you see an orthopaedic (doctor), and with a cold, you take medicine. But when you are mentally ill, no one tends to seek help or take medication.
“I created the drama with the idea that getting someone’s help is a good thing.”